The official poster for "Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero," which comes to theaters on Friday. Photo courtesy of Crunchyroll
Aug. 19 (UPI) -- Dragon Ball, a long-running staple in manga and anime, returns with a new film Friday that shifts focus away from main protagonists Goku and Vegeta and follows Gohan and his mentor, Piccolo, years after Gohan was briefly positioned as the lead character of the series.
Gohan's English voice actor Kyle Hebert told UPI in a recent interview that he had a feeling Goku's son would re-enter the spotlight, but he didn't know just when.
"We are going back and giving Gohan his day because fans have been waiting for such a long time," Hebert said.
Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero takes place after the events of the last Dragon Ball film titled Broly and the Dragon Ball Super anime series. Legendary series creator Akira Toriyama worked on the film's original story, screenplay and character designs.
In the film, the villainous Red Ribbon Army returns, this time under the guise of a pharmaceutical company. The evil organization has targeted Goku and his friends throughout the series, and once again has created a pair of ultimate fighting machines known as Androids named Gamma 1 and Gamma 2.
Gamma 1 and Gamma 2, voiced in the English dub by Aleks Le and Zeno Robinson, respectively, are modeled after superheroes, and they conduct attacks that create comic book-like word bubbles. With Goku and Vegeta unable to save Earth, it's up to Gohan and Piccolo to push beyond their limits and save the day.
Toriyama's Dragon Ball began in 1984, when it premiered in manga magazine Weekly Shonen Jump. The manga has sold over 260 million copies worldwide and has spawned a popular anime franchise, multiple films, video games and more.
The adventures of martial artist Goku and his friends as they defend Earth began as Dragon Ball and was then continued in Dragon Ball Z and now in Dragon Ball Super. At the center of the saga are the seven magical Dragon Balls that, when collected, can grant a wish.
A new aesthetic
The first thing that fans will notice about Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero is its unique look. For the first time in Dragon Ball history, this film is presented in a new, 3D and computer graphics-animated style.
"It's a natural evolution, I think. It's the perfect blend for old school 2D fans and today's generation who have been brought up on CG and 3D," Hebert said.
"It's a good way to give depth and it's just visual eye candy. I think it works so well. I know people were a little skeptical at first after seeing the trailer, but having seen the film, I can tell you I hope they stay with this visual style from here on out. It's just gorgeous."
Sean Schemmel, the English voice actor for Goku, said he is also excited about the new animation style, and echoed Hebert's sentiments.
"There is a certain amount of weight the three-dimensionality adds to the characters, and the bad guys seem to have more gravitas. There is definitely more opportunity for action shots, panoramic shots and 360 [degree] spins that are very difficult to do in 2D animation," Schemmel said.
"This film was definitely designed and will do extraordinarily well in a theatrical setting, particularly IMAX."
Everyone's favorite dad, Piccolo
One of the strongest bonds formed in Dragon Ball is the special relationship between Gohan and Piccolo, who trained Goku's son to be the Saiyan warrior he was always meant to be.
Fans love to joke about how Piccolo, voiced in English by Christopher Sabat, has acted as Gohan's real father over the years as he always stood by his pupil in Goku's absence.
Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero continues this idea and fully embraces Piccolo as Gohan's surrogate father, with Piccolo even babysitting Gohan's daughter, Pan (voiced in English by Jeannie Tirado).
"It always makes me chuckle that Akira Toriyama clearly knows these characters well enough to even know how the fans feel about them," Sabat said about Gohan and Piccolo's bond taking center stage in the film.
"He really leans into moments like that. It's clear that Akira Toriyama is in on some of these jokes," he said.
Goku and Vegeta become side characters
The leads of Dragon Ball Super, Goku and Vegeta (also voiced by Sabat), are unable to join in on the action in Super Hero due to their intense training with the all-powerful Beerus, the God of Destruction (voiced in English by Jason Douglas), and his angelic partner, Whis (voiced in English by Ian Sinclair).
The devout fighters still are featured in the film, however, and help introduce new ideas that can come to fruition in future installments.
"I think it's awesome that Vegeta and Goku don't have to do much, but they still kind of steal the movie in a lot of ways too," Sabat said.
Schemmel and Sabat said how they were happy to give their vocal chords a break during recording of Super Hero. Dragon Ball is famous for its characters yelling loudly as they power-up during intense battles.
"I didn't have to scream nearly as loud as I normally have to. Vegeta's voice literally hurts, just to speak," Sabat said.
"I still think there is more to do with Goku and Vegeta. There's a lot in the manga they haven't covered in animation. I don't know what's going to happen with that but it was definitely nice to not walk out of that recording session feeling dead because Broly kicked my ass.
"This was a walk in the park compared to that, at least vocally for me," Schemmel said, referencing Goku's most recent opponent, Broly.
Schemmel and Sabat said they were happy for Hebert to take the spotlight and congratulated him on his performance.
"As a friend and as somebody who has worked with Kyle for a really long time, watching Kyle work through those scenes as Gohan was really special," Sabat said.
"I was rooting for him in the same way that Piccolo roots for Gohan. By the time we finished, it was really breathtaking. The very next day I watched through it, and I teared up. It was so beautiful. There are just some amazing moments. Kyle, you killed it, bro," he said.
Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero is coming to more than 2,500+ theaters in North America on Friday. The film can be viewed in dubbed English or in Japanese with English subtitles. Tetsuro Kodama serves as director.
The English voice cast also includes Monica Rial (Bulma), Zach Aguilar (Dr. Hedo), Charles Martinet (Magenta), Jason Marnocha (Carmine), Robert McCollum (Goten), Eric Vale (Trunks) Sonny Strait (Krillin) and Kara Edwards (Videl).
The Japanese voice cast includes Masako Nozawa (Goku, Gohan, and Goten), Toshio Furukawa (Piccolo), Aya Hisakawa (Bulma), Ryō Horikawa (Vegeta), Mayumi Tanaka (Krillin), Takeshi Kusao (Trunks), Yūko Minaguchi (Videl), Yūko Minaguchi (Pan), Miyu Irino (Dr. Hedo), Hiroshi Kamiya (Gamma 1), Mamoru Miyano (Gamma 2), Volcano Ota (Magenta) and Ryota Takeuchi (Carmine).